Birmingham... Day In Supermarket, Chung Ying's Dim Sum & A Bubble Tea!
Following on from my successful walk around my desired Westside landmarks and my late afternoon offerings, I restarted my Birmingham odyssey the next day. I had been missing certain foods from China that I would be able to find in my then local Beijing supermarket, I needed an Oriental intervention! Those lunch reservations had been booked well in advance, I was ready!
Of course my hotel had to be located just over the road from Chinatown's own 'Day In' Oriental Supermarket. Deciding to get those food shopping bits before my 12:00 noon reservations, I headed back over to '國泰街/Cathay Street' to be reunited with the said supermarket. For me it was a joy to be surrounded by people who were speaking Chinese whether it sounded as if it was from either Hong Kong or the Mainland. Yes, I loved that Oriental connection regardless! Walking around those familiar aisles, I was able to see those imported Chinese food items, for me not seeing such a sight for such a long time never crossed my mind. My last visit to a supermarket in China was during February 2020, it was only to grab a few hotel snacks and drinks because I had to get some treats during that unknown hotel quarantine period. In the 2021 moment in Birmingham at 'Day In' I headed over to find some '乌龙茶/Oolong Tea', unfortunately I couldn't find any of that type so I grabbed a huge bag of '普洱茶/Puerh Tea'. 茶!
Of course, I hadn't just gone to 'Day In' for tea alone, I was trying to find some '黄豆酱/Yellow Soy Bean Paste' but it had to be a specific brand! I scoured the shelves for a brand called 'YES!' That unassuming brand had made it into my trolley by accident during a Friday evening trip to my then local Beijing supermarket, I went onto to cook with it on a daily basis to then discover it was one of the base ingredients to make '炸酱面/Zha Jiang Mian!' The dish being a delicious Beijing noodle staple, over the Lockdown I had wanted to find the paste, I knew that Birmingham's 'Day In' would come through for me! Opting for something sweet to make my purchases come out as 'three items', I found some '山楂糖/Hawthorn Sweets'. Those Chinese berry sweets had been the sweet alternative to fizzy sweets because the Hawthorn brand was a more local Chinese choice. The items were local for my previous China location but the prices were not, to have those items in England meant more than their price! 中国产品, 没问题! 谢你!
Having lived in China's Mainland for around five years on and off since June 2015, I have honestly been spoiled rotten because the authentic Chinese food in China always tastes amazing! Being outside of China has been tough for the last sixteen months, I have made the mistake of having a Chinese takeaway on numerous occasions to find the food tasting quite awful! My Mainland China palette has changed my taste for UK made Chinese food. I don't want to sound like someone who is arrogant but when I have been used to an authentic taste, Overseas Chinese food has to taste extra special to come close to anything that I have previously enjoyed 在中国大陆/香港/澳门! Apologises, I haven't yet been to 台湾岛! With such particular standards mentioned, I booked my Birmingham table with only one choice to be considered, that had to be Chung Ying! Located on Wrottesley Street in the heart of Birmingham's Chinatown, I knew that my tastebuds would be once again impressed considering the UK location. I was ready to 吃饭!
Not long after taking my seat within 中英's outdoor dining area, I was handed a menu that my friend Kelly would usually tick off our choices. I had to go it alone, I knew I had picked up a respectable level of Chinese reading skills during my stint in Beijing, it was time to take a chance! Ordering chicken's feet, steamed seafood dumplings, deep-fried octopus to begin, I tried my best to ignore the English on the Dim Sum menu that I had been given. Going back to a Hong Kong breakfast favourite, I ordered a large bowl of Congee because I wanted to eat something that I hadn't had since that Cathay Pacific flight back from Hong Kong to Beijing in 2018. Oh, also I ordered one serving of pork Cheung Fun and a pot of 中国茶, maybe I did ask for another menu that had photos on because mobile data decided to give up on me. Without any doubt, the food ordered was delicious, each and every dish was enjoyed by myself with much excitement. Did I hear Mandarin being spoken? A blessing to hear '普通话' tones! 我听到! 是的!
My stomach hadn't felt that blessed with such good food for long time, England really isn't China but I will remain thankful for Chung Ying's presence in Birmingham! Needing something to help my Dim Sum Cantonese lunch digest, I saved my Bubble Tea drink treat for the final segment of my Birmingham trip. Before I took the Metro from Grand Central to Bilston, I popped into Happy Lemon to get my Bubble Tea fix! I had seriously missed that beverage during 2020 and through 2021! I used my Mandarin Chinese skills to order my '乌龙珍珠奶茶'. I did my best to explain that I wanted it to be hot not cold, unfortunately the icy demeanour conveyed by the store assistant didn't impress me much. I knew for a fact that they would be serving Mandarin speaking customers, even still was it down to my pronunciation? I know my tones aren't Beijing native but I try my best to sound like a 北京儿 whenever I possibly can. Shade aside, I allowed that frosty interaction to slide. Not meeting the debit minimum charge, I chose a JP cheesecake.
That life event didn't mean all that much to me, I was really looking forward to that Happy Lemon milk tea. I had turned my nose up at other places within 唐人街 to choose Happy Lemon, absolutely my purchase tasted divine! My Oolong Pearl Milk Tea finished that Birmingham trip perfectly, I made my way to the West Midlands Metro with a feeling of completion and gratitude. Gratitude for what? I felt as if a slice of my former life had come back to me within Birmingham's Chinatown. The Happy Lemon experience was a little sour but the drink itself brought back happy memories, I wasn't feeling sore. My lunch had been top-notch, most definitely the best Chinese food that I had enjoyed back in England since my February 2020 arrival. I loved my purchases from 'Day In', the Soy Bean Paste will be used in a Beijing inspired noodle dish soon enough! Yes, those Hawthorn sweets would be devoured quickly! Happy Lemon, it is all good! You know that I will choose your brand over others! B, 我希望很快见到你!